The Meaning of a Name


I recently attended a meditation workshop, and the instructor told us to take out a notebook and pen. She would ask us a question and wanted us to journal about it. She asked us, “What is the meaning of your name?”

I immediately had flashbacks to getting called on in class and not knowing the answer. “Oh, God, please don’t pick me!” What is the meaning of Jennifer? Did she mean from the Webster’s Dictionary or the ancient root per se? I had no idea, so I looked around at everyone else furiously writing.

I felt like something was wrong with me. How did the meaning of their names come so easily to them? So, I wrote my name down in my notebook:

Jennifer, Jennifer Marie Melville, Jennifer Marie Spade

And then my pen just kept on moving. Jen, Jenny, Jennifer, JenSpade, Spade, Spader, mom, mommy, Biffy, babe, pumpkin, princess, etc.

When I stopped writing, I had a whole list of names that I responded to at some point in my life. Each carried with it a story. A memory. A moment in time. Some made me laugh. Some made me feel angry. Some made me feel sad and miss the person that I associated with that name.

I realized my name wasn’t just Jennifer. Each name I’ve been given throughout my life carried with it an identity, security for another person, and a relationship that had or has true meaning in my life.

I am 42 years old, and my dad still calls me pumpkin. After I got married seven years ago, no one calls me JenSpade anymore, and I still feel a little sad about it. They hold the woman I was, the woman I am, and the woman I am becoming.

I walked away from this workshop feeling grateful. I am grateful for the struggles I have overcome, the people I have met throughout my life, and the role I play in so many other people’s lives.

I also smiled. What will my next name be, and what greatness will it carry?


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